Plan To Alter and Potentially Undermine Landmarked 1834 House and Carriage House Returns Tuesday

Proposal Could Destroy One of NYC’s First Landmarks, Former Home of Photographer Diane Arbus

131 (l.) and 131 1/2 Charles Street, located between Washington and Greenwich Streets

This coming Tuesday the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will consider a revised application to alter and perform extensive potentially dangerous and damaging excavation work under 131 and 131 1/2 Charles Street, an almost perfectly intact 1834 Federal-style house and its rear carriage house, which were among the first sites to be designated a NYC landmark by the then-new LPC in 1966 and are listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. The rear carriage house, which also dates to the 19th century, was the home of photographer Diane Arbus (1923-1971) from 1959 to 1968, at the height of her too-short career. In 2006, Village Preservation got the house and backhouse doubly landmarked, along with several dozen surrounding buildings, as part of an extension of the Greenwich Village Historic District.

In January, Village Preservation and allies were able to beat back an earlier version of this plan, which the LPC sent back to the drawing board, echoing several objections we had raised. The new version of the proposal — which still involves extensive excavation under the house, yard, and carriage house, potentially endangering all structures and neighboring landmarked ones as well, eliminating the historic horsewalk, building onto the house’s original sloped roof and rear, and altering the carriage house, which is intact to Arbus’s residence — will be considered as a “revision” of the original proposal, and therefore public testimony will not be allowed. However, the public can submit written testimony to be considered, and we strongly urge you to do so!

Given the city’s troublingly poor track record of ensuring that excavation work is done safely and in a manner that does not endanger the building in question or its neighbors (as reported earlier this week), it is especially critical that this plan be rejected.

Written testimony will be accepted until Monday at noon, but it is recommended that it be received by 5PM TODAY to make it into Commissioners’ packets for consideration.

Those wishing to observe the hearing on this item in person or online can find out how to do so here (the estimated time this item will be heard won’t be posted until late on Friday). More information on this application can be found here.

August 11, 2023